Horse Breeding Terminology: Dam and Sire Meaning

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Last Updated on December 27, 2022

The horse world does have a lot of unusual terminologies, especially when it comes to breeding! Confused about the dam and sire meaning? To put it simply, they are the parents of a horse – but read on to find out more!

Horse owners, trainers, and breeders use a lot of different names to describe the age and gender of a horse. The words dam and sire are used to identify the parents of a horse. They can even be put together to identify the grandparents as well!

Let’s take a look at the fascinating world of horse breeding and introduce the terminology used by breeders.

What is a Pedigree?

To understand more about horse breeding terminology, we need to know what a pedigree is. The easiest way to think of a pedigree is as a family tree – it traces a horse’s ancestry back for several generations.

Many of us have no idea what our horse’s pedigree is! We may have a passport that names the parents and even grandparents of our horse. However, if you are not active in the world of breeding these names may not mean much to you. Many horses do not have a pedigree at all, as their sire and dam are unknown.

Breeders use pedigrees to help them plan future breeding programs by observing which combination of mother and father produces the best foals. This information can be used to improve factors such as performance, athletic ability, or conformation.

What Is Sire and Dam?

Sire and dam are the two most common terms used when discussing a horse’s pedigree. Horse breeders, trainers, and owners have a keen interest in a horse’s pedigree, as this helps them to track bloodlines and improve the breeding stock.

  • The sire and the dam are the parents of an equine animal. Equine animals include horses, ponies, donkeys, mules, asses, and zebra.
  • The sire is the father of a horse. You may also hear the sire referred to as the stud or stallion. A horse is described as being ‘by’ a sire.
  • The dam is the mother of a horse. She may also be called a broodmare. A horse is described as being ‘out of the dam.
  • For example: “This foal was out of the dam Barbera, and was sired by Bertie.”

The Importance of Sire and Dam Meaning

The selection and pairing of the sire with the dam is an art form in itself, with horse breeders spending hours researching the pedigree of the potential sire or dam. This is because breeders want to breed the best possible foals, who will take on the desired traits of the sire and dam.

Using words such as sire and dam helps us to easily identify the parents of a horse. If a horse performs particularly well, a breeder can find out who the sire was and see if they would be a good match for their dam.

The Importance of Sire and Dam Meaning

In many purebred and competition horses, the sire and dam will be recorded in the horse’s official paperwork. Some breed societies also hold detailed records of the sires and dams of all registered horses – this is called a studbook.

But it doesn’t stop there! Breeders and horse enthusiasts are not just interested in the sire and dam, and these records can go back several generations. The Thoroughbred stud book goes right back to the late 1700s!

Other Dam and Sire Definitions

So if breeders are interested in several generations of pedigree, what other names are used to describe a horse’s ancestors? Now we understand the dam and sire meaning, it is time to introduce a whole load of new words!

  • Damsire: Also known as a broodmare sire, this is the maternal grandfather of the foal – the mother’s father.
  • Progeny: The offspring of a horse.
  • Full Brother or Sister: Horses that share the same sire and dam.
  • Half Brother or Sister: Horses that share the same dam. Horses that share only the same sire are not considered to be related, as a stallion may sire hundreds of foals every year.
  • Second Dam: The dam’s mother, otherwise known as the maternal grandmother.
  • Third Dam: The great-grandmother on the female side of the pedigree.

Foundation Sires of the American Quarter Horse

Who Is Most Important – The Sire Or The Dam?

When it comes to breeding, most of the attention goes to the sire, but choosing the right dam is also very important! In terms of genetics, the foal will receive 50% of its genetic makeup from each parent. However, certain characteristics and traits will be passed down consistently from either the dam or the sire.

Breeders will look at potential sires and dams, and evaluate their conformation, temperament, performance records, and pedigree. They will also look at the same qualities in the progeny of the dam and sire, to see if these traits are carried through to the next generation.

Top-class stallions can sire hundreds and even thousands of foals every year, which means their high-quality genes quickly become well known. The dam will only produce one foal per year so she is normally less well known, but some dams have produced a string of top-class progeny.

Historically, the sire has been thought of as the most influential parent when it comes to performance. However, a recent study found that the maternal line also had an important role to play, and high-performing dams more consistently produced good-quality foals compared to sires of the same athletic ability.

Who Is Most Important – The Sire Or The Dam

Whereas most foals will never meet their sire, the dam will normally spend up to a year with its offspring. This means that as well as passing on her genetic traits, she will also imprint her personality and behaviors on the foal.

How Many Horses American Pharoah Sired?

American Pharoah had a short but impressive racing career which has led to him being highly sought after as a sire for potential future racehorses. He ran only 11 races during his career and won 9 of these. His total winnings came to over eight million dollars.

It is not clear how many foals American Pharoah has sired. In his first season at stud in 2016, he successfully mated around 80 mares, but data is not available to show how many foals he has sired since this.

The offspring of the American Pharoah has had mixed results on the racetrack. Some of his foals have gone on to win prestigious races, but none have matched the achievements of their sire. The stud fee for American Pharoah is currently $60,000 and his offspring regularly reach prices of $300,000 and above, so it appears that racehorse breeders and trainers still rate this stallion highly for his breeding potential.

Who is The Sire of Rich Strike Horse?

Until Rich Strike won the Kentucky Derby in 2022, many people had never even heard of this plucky little horse. His place in the race was only secured at the very last minute after another horse withdrew.

Rich Strike then became a household name, as he secured a win in the Kentucky Derby at odds of 80-1!

So, where did Rich Strike come from? This plucky chestnut colt was sired by Keen Ice, and his dam is Gold Strike. His dam-sire was Smart Strike, one of the leading racehorse sires in North America.

Rich Strike’s sire, Keen Ice, was one of the few horses to ever beat the triple crown champion American Pharoah. This was the highlight of his career, although he picked up a few other wins along the way. His sire, Curlin, was voted American Horse Of The Year for two consecutive years.

What Horse-Sired Seabiscuit?

There can’t be many horse racing enthusiasts who haven’t heard of Seabiscuit! This small yet plucky stallion rose to fame in the 1930s, when he became one of the top-earning racehorses of that time.

The career of Seabiscuit is a fascinating one – he performed badly for the first few years and was not thought to have any potential. However, when he was purchased and moved to a new trainer, his true potential was realized. The American public fell in love with this small, courageous horse, and he brought hope and joy to people during the Great Depression.

Seabiscuit was sired by a stallion called Hard Tack, who retired from racing at an early age due to his temperament. Hard Tack was believed to be a fast runner, but he was not suited to racing and would sometimes fail to start.

However, the sire of Hard Tack was the world-famous Man o’War, who is often regarded as the greatest racehorse of all time. Seabiscuit’s dam-sire, Whisk Broom II, was also a top-class racehorse in his own right.

How Much Does a Broodmare Sell For?

The value of a broodmare will vary widely according to a range of different factors. The most desirable feature of a broodmare is that she will produce foals that will excel at the sport in which they are intended to compete. Some sports, such as horse racing, have huge sums of money involved and a good racehorse broodmare will be worth a lot of money.

The other factors that affect the price of a broodmare are her age, health status, and breeding history. A mare that has produced foals that have gone on to win in the past has a proven breeding history and is more valuable. The pedigree of the mare is also important, and some of the most famous racehorses have been bred from mares with prize-winning sires.

The mare Havre de Grace sold at auction in 2012 for $10 million as a broodmare prospect. During her racing career, she won over $2.5 million and was American Horse Of The Year in 2011. She has since bred six foals, five of which have won races.

Are Broodmares Good For Riding?

Many mares can be used for both riding and breeding foals, although this depends on the type of equestrian industry in question. For example, racehorse broodmares are normally retired from ridden work and are kept just to breed foals.

Mares kept for leisure riding are more likely to be ridden whilst they are carrying a foal. The level of exercise will need to be reduced as she progresses through her pregnancy, and she must not be ridden for the first and final months of her pregnancy.

It is possible to resume ridden work around eight weeks after a mare has given birth, but the logistics of riding a mare with a foal at the foot can make this tricky!

How Often Can You Breed a Broodmare?

Horses are annual breeders and will only have one pregnancy per year. In the vast majority of cases, horses only have one foal per pregnancy, so a broodmare will produce just one foal per year.

This follows the natural breeding cycle of a horse in the wild, where the mare would become pregnant during the spring and give birth the following spring. Horse breeders frequently aim to manipulate this cycle by getting the mare pregnant as early as possible in the year, so that she gives birth earlier the following year.

What Type of Hay Would Be Most Suitable For a Lactating Broodmare?

Lactating mares should be fed good quality hay to enable them to meet the nutritional requirements of both themselves and their foal. Nursing foals need to obtain all the nutrition they require from their dam, and their food intake needs to reflect this.

Alfalfa hay is a good choice for lactating broodmares, as it is high in digestible energy. Many breeders choose to feed a mix of grass hay and alfalfa hay.


So, as we’ve learned, the dam and sire meaning is the father and mother of a horse. In competitive sports such as horse racing, breeders keep detailed records about sires and dams to improve their breeding stock. The rest of us normally have no idea who our horse’s parents are, but it would be fun to find out!

We’d love to hear about your horse – do you know who their sire and dam are? Or maybe you have any questions about horse breeding terminology? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!

What is sire and grandsire?

This is a question that is often asked by the beginner breeder. Sire is the male parent of a given animal. Grandsire is the male parent of the sire. Grandsire is the father of the sire. In the case of horses, mares are the females and stallions are the males. Once they breed and produce the offspring, the mare is referred to as a dam and a stallion is referred to as a sire.

How do you find the sire and dam of a horse?

You can use microchip information to identify a horse’s previous owner or breeder. This usually can be done at a veterinary clinic or animal shelter. Furthermore, in some cases, DNA testing can help identify the horse’s sire and dam.
DNA testing is most effective for horses that have been bred multiple times by the same owners. DNA testing can also help trace a horse’s lineage back to its breed of origin. You can use this information to recover the horse’s pedigree.

What is the offspring of a dam called?

A male horse, a stallion, is often referred to as the sire, while the female horse, that is producing the offspring, is called the dam. Both are genetically important; each parent contributes half of the genetic material of their offspring, which is called a foal.
A foal is a baby horse up to one year of age. Male foals are called colts and female foals are called fillies. When a mare or a dam has delivered a baby horse, we say she has foaled. Once foals turn one year old, they are normally referred to as yearlings.

What is a nick in horse breeding?

Nicking, which is done by mating a stallion to the daughter of another stallion, has been practiced for centuries in hopes of reproducing favorable results from earlier matings. Breeders talk about a “nick” when a sire does significantly better with a particular sire’s offspring than  with the females or other sires.
In some cases, the offspring of a good nick is said to have been “born again”. A good nicking can be highly valuable, since a stallion may mate to a mare of lesser value (and, thus, lower genetic potential) and still get a superior result.

Is sire a title?

Sire is a title used to refer to a knight or baronet, as well as the father of a man or the master of a house. The title is used in several ways. The first way is to refer to a person of general importance, a member of the nobility or royalty. For example, the title is used to refer to the king, duke, earl, viscount, baron, etc. It is also used to refer to the general of an army, the admiral of a navy, the general of a police force, the commander of a military unit, or the leader of a religious order.
However, the word sire is now considered archaic and it’s mostly used to refer to a male horse producing offspring. The term sir is now used as a title to address a man of high social status. For example, a person may be addressed as “sir” by a member of the royal family, or by a member of the aristocracy.

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